Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Time Management Tuesday: Time Shaming

Things I Can Say About MFA Writing Programs Now That I No Longer Teach In One by Ryan Boudinot received quite a bit of attention, of one kind or another, from two different groups on my Facebook wall this past week. I have never been part of a MFA program, so I can't even pretend to address what he has to say about them. I will, however, address what he had to say about time.

Yeah, That Was Harsh

"If you complain about not having time to write," Boudinot said in bold, "please do us both a favor and drop out." While expanding on that thought, he said, "My experience tells me this: Students who ask a lot of questions about time management, blow deadlines, and whine about how complicated their lives are should just give up and do something else. Their complaints are an insult to the writers who managed to produce great work under far more difficult conditions than the 21st-century MFA student."

Talk about insulting.

I have heard others disparage people with, shall we say, "time management issues." They seem to believe that those who can't manage their time suffer from some kind of moral failing. Certainly, they are "other," not like the people who perceive themselves as being time masters.

Why Time Shaming Is So Very Odd


What I find particularly interesting about this situation is that there are so many workable time management techniques. Psychologists have studied procrastination and impulse control problems it is related to. There is even writing process related to writing faster, which has a definite impact on how much writers can do with the time they have. Why, then, do people in positions to help writers treat those who wonder how they can find the time to write as if they just lost some kind of life lottery by merely asking the question?

I can only speculate, of course.
  1. We are a very them-or-us type of culture.  "I write at the drop of a hat, you don't. I know I'm good, so you must be bad." See also: Organic vs. plotting writers. Lots of arguments over whether or not one writing method is better than the other.
  2. The shamers simply don't know anything about time management. Not knowing something makes them uncomfortable, knocking down someone else makes them feel better.
One final speculative question:  Why not teach writers how to manage their time?


tanita✿davis said...

While the Boudinot piece had some elements of truth (though I have to take issue with the "if you weren't serious about this in your teens, you'll never make it" idea. Srsly? WHO still believes that our "permanent record" really starts then?!), it was emotionally tone-deaf in that hipster, I am a REALZ WRITER, YO fashion that makes me really tired. Fine. You write. Please do not presume to tell all the rest of us how to do it.

I think your final point is a good one: why aren't MFA students taught time management? Surely some must be... but the one thing that cannot be taught is commitment.

Gail Gauthier said...

When I first started droning on about time management, I read about Dorothy Duff Brown who did research on graduate students using time to write theses. http://blog.gailgauthier.com/2012/02/time-management-tuesday-unit-system.html So some graduate programs consider time management something they should be covering.

Perhaps other programs consider time management to be one of those things you should know by the time you're in your teens. If you don't, whoops.